Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I get by with a little art with my friends

When I sat down to write a post here this morning, I started in on how irritating my day was yesterday, and how many things went wrong. I wrote a few paragraphs, getting more irritated all over again as I wrote, and then it occurred to me: I wouldn't want to read that. I erased it all and went off to do errands.

Well, I came home after getting some things done and having lunch with friends and I feel much better. And instead, I'll tell you about the good part of yesterday.

In my art quilt group, the Pointless Sisters, we started our workshop with quilt artist Marilyn Felber. I wasn't sure what to expect, really, but I knew several things: She's highly respected by my friend and long-time quilter Janet Shore; some people I know who've taken classes with her rave about her and have produced amazing work in their workshops with her; and in her emails about what she planned to do, she said she would present the sort of master class she always wanted to find but never did.

Well, it was a wonderful afternoon. Marilyn is a calm, very pleasant woman who is great at asking questions, provoking ideas, and generating interesting thoughts. She had us go around the group and talk about why we were in quilting and what we wanted to get out of the workshop, and that was very instructive. Considering that we've been getting together for some time now, I learned stuff about others that I didn't know...It was very interesting to hear what others thought their strengths and weaknesses were as quilt artists. She looked at some work some of us had done, and her comments were kind and thoughtful.

The exercise she had us do was of interest to me not so much for the sewing exercise itself, but for the questions that she raised about the exercise afterwards. Here's what she had us do: We each chose a baggie of scrap fabric from an assortment Marilyn had brought with her. She told us to pick 9 pieces out of the baggie, and then with each of those, sew something to it from our scrap collections. We did that over and over, until we had 9 assembled pieces.

When we gathered together, she asked provocative questions:

Did you like sewing piece by piece, without knowing what the end was going to be? Do you prefer to know before you start what the end result will be?
Was it stressful having someone yell out directions to you while you were working?
Why did you sew the shapes you sewed?
Why did you choose what you picked out of the baggie? Did you choose for color, pattern, etc?
What made you add what you did to each piece? Were you driven by a desire to make symmetrical pieces? Different pieces? Did you pull fabrics at random or aim for something cohesive?

It was, for me, an exercise in noticing what drove me to do what I did. Interestingly, after we all put our pieces on the floor in front of us (we were sitting in a circle), I would have been able to identify who had done which pieces for over half of the groupings, I think.

Also, funnily, almost everyone had the feeling that they had done something "wrong," when one of the key points was that the exercise directions were so vague that there was not any "wrong" way at all. The sense that somehow there were unspoken "rules" we were violating was a very strong one in each of us! That alone was a light-bulb moment for me.

So, now the task -- if we choose to accept it -- is to take those pieces and make something bigger with it. We meet again in a month.

I think this will be a very productive series of workshops!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Random Monday Thoughts

1. Oh boy, today's the day I go to Veronica's house to meet her long arm quilting machine and get my first lesson! I'm bringing a huge hunk of muslin to learn on... For future learning projects, I have a stack of quilt tops made with scraps to be donated to the local children's center. I'd be so happy to finish these off and give them away!

2. Simply Quilts seems to have really good, art-quilty shows on Mondays. I find it interesting that the newest shows are featuring really interesting contemporary quilters and new techniques. Nowadays I don't watch the rest of the week, but I always tune in on Mondays.

3. I can't imagine getting a tattoo. I find them totally unattractive. It makes me feel old and untrendy, but there you have it.

4. I want my bathroom back! We're in the waiting-for-the-tile stage. Last night I would have loved a long soak in our huge bathtub, but no such luck. Sigh.

5. Tomorrow is the first lesson with Marilyn Felber, a Berkeley quilt artist who is going to come and do ongoing workshops with my art quilt group. The first task is to bring scraps and sewing machine. I hauled out my large scrap bin and will just bring the whole thing. Wonder what we'll do?!

6. What's your least favorite word? (Do you watch Inside the Actor's Studio? At the end, interviewer James Lipton always asks guests the same series of questions, to which they reply as if they had no idea he ALWAYS does this and as if they just thought of the answer at that moment.) This is one of the questions, and the same word -- or non-word -- springs to my mind: Irregardless. I HATE when people say that.

7. What to have for dinner? When I was a kid, my mom would ask that, with a tired sigh. I used to think, "What's so hard about that?" But now, I know! It's the relentless need for a decision. I'm trying to use my crockpot more, as I love having dinner made by 10am.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Happy Day

We had an exciting and happy day in our family yesterday. My brother Gregg got married to his girlfriend Kitt. It was the perfect day for an afternoon wedding--warm and sunny. The wedding took place in the backyard of a friend of theirs, on a deck with a lovely view of oak-covered mountains.

The wedding was especially exciting for Caroline, who served as a flower girl. She took her job very seriously:

Here is the wedding in progress:

Gregg and Kitt are very happy, which makes all of us very happy. I love this shot of them, with Gregg being typically silly.

And Caroline, relieved to have her job over with, posed with Uncle Gregg and Auntie Kitt.

Afterwards, we had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant in Tiburon called The Caprice. We dined on fabulous food (caesar salad, grilled salmon, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed herbed squash) in a room which was right on the SF bay and looked right out on Angel Island. It felt like being on a boat, without the rocking.

Afterwards, we enjoyed champagne and the most amazing chocolate cake (filled with chocolate mousse) that you could imagine.

A grand time was had by all, and we are all wishing the newlyweds great happiness.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Mental Floss

Laura posted a comment asking about a magazine I listed, called "Mental Floss." It's a quirky little magazine with all sorts of information in it: oddball facts presented in a funny but educational way. Here's what the publishers say about it:

"Mental Floss" is built on a simple premise: People love to feel smart. But no one has enough time these days to achieve that admirable goal. That's where mental_floss comes in.
We take the chore out of learning by presenting information in a way that's quick, simple, quirky and fun. By covering everything from black holes to the Dead Sea Scrolls, then drenching our pages in facts and trivia,
we've created a magazine that is winning tons of fans and creating buzz across the country and around the world.

It's entertaining, little tidbits of factual stuff (history, science, entertainment, general trivia) presented in a fun way. This month's cover article is "the 20 Most Annoying People." You can find out more about it here.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fun Surprises

Ooh! Ooh! Two fun things happened today.

First, my friend Lissa called this morning and asked if she could come over with her friend Veronica to see my collection of quilts. Lissa had heard about them from a mutual friend and has been wanting to see them. I said, "How about today?" and they were there within the half hour. We had a fun visit, talking and laughing and looking at quilts. Veronica is a quilter, and Lissa is an energetic, crafty woman who hasn't yet made a quilt but wants to try one after she finishes sewing curtains for her new house and slipcovers for her furniture. Funny, but she doesn't believe it when I tell her that if she can do curtains and slipcovers, she won't have any trouble with quilts.

But the exciting part? Veronica lives right here in my very town, and has a Gammill long arm quilting machine in her garage that she doesn't use as much as she thinks she should. I threw caution to the wind, and asked if a) she'd be willing to teach me, and b) if she'd then rent me time on her machine. She was thrilled with the prospect, and we're on! My first lesson is next monday!

The second fun thing was that my afternoon cleared up unexpectedly, so I decided to pull the fabric for a small new project. It requires autumn colors, and I discovered that I don't have any hand dyed fabric in the brown range. Well, it was such a warm day that I pulled the already-mixed dye out of the outside fridge and set to mixing some miscellaneous browns in small tubs. I can hardly wait to see how they turn out. Results to follow!

Gemma, the now-7-month-old-puppy, was reasonably cooperative. Only once did she pull a piece of fabric out of the water-soak tub to drag it across the lawn!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I Can't Get There From Here

Oh, the things I've meant to accomplish this week. But every time I head in the direction of actually starting one of them, even, something gets in the way. Like...

...this cold that won't seem to go away, and makes me tired all the time

...the need to shop for a dress for Caroline to wear to my brother's wedding THIS SATURDAY and for which we had like 2 weeks' notice

...the various construction guys coming and going unexpectedly from our master bathroom (we still have no shower and a general mess. Today they came at 7:45 AM to whack the rest of the tile off from the shower and surround of the tub, as they weren't able to find the original tile to match the stuff they had to remove originally. You have no idea how conducive to productive and efficient work it is to have the sound of sledge-hammer whacking against tile all morning.

...surprise work projects popping up, so that when I sit down at my computer to work on the one I thought I'd do today, there's an email announcing a new emergency project needing an immediate response so I never did get to start the one I'd planned on finishing.

...the need to help my friend, whose mother-in-law died a day ago, by ferrying her child to an after-school activity and keep her here for dinner (this, the kid who eats ONE brand of mac-and-cheese --and of course it's not the one I buy -- and who will ask to see the milk carton her milk came from to make sure it's the same brand she always has at home)

...the call from school saying they need certain PTO paperwork that should have been done in June--under the former president's reign, btw, but what does it matter as it wasn't done and still needs to be done

I have great quilt ideas in my head that want doing. I'm going to go to bed early tonight so I can get up and maybe actually get something done tomorrow! (After all, what's left to sledge-hammer around here?)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Good news

I received nice news in the mail today. I'll have two quilts at PIQF in October:

"The Beating of a Butterfly's Wing"

and "Koi Pond"

As this is only the second time I've entered a juried show, I'm rather pleased!

Magazines, quilty and otherwise

I was thinking this morning, as I was tidying the bedroom and pulling magazines off of the nightstand, about how much I enjoy reading magazines and whether the assortment of magazines I subscribe to reflects a lot or a little about me. It probably says more than I'd like it to!

So, I thought I'd throw out this question to y'all:

What magazines do you subscribe to, and why? (Not just READ, mind you, but actually pay money to get delivered to you every month?)

Here's what comes to my house:

The New Yorker - I love the insightful commentaries on news, political and legal events (I adore Jeffrey Toobin), I'm amused by the cartoons, and I can't miss Anthony Lane's movie reviews

Quilting Arts -- Inspiration, ideas... Sometimes I'm disappointed that so much of the art in it looks the same, but still, it's the only art quilt magazine I know of. These, I save.

Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion - I love riotous color, and love to see artist homes and gardens. The photos always make me happy.

Cottage Living - I aspire to this sort of home, a comfy cottagey house with a country garden.

TV Guide - Because how else would I know what good stuff is coming up?

Mental Floss - This is our first year with this odd little magazine, sort of a mix of information and humor and trivia. Caroline even likes this.

Quilter's Newsletter - It covers the whole quilt spectrum. I enjoy it but read it pretty quickly. (And no, I don't save them. I tear out stuff that might inspire me for my "quilt ideas" file and then toss them.)

Cooking Light - Good recipes, helpful for making me cook more healthfully.

Food and Wine - We don't know why we get this -- we never subscribed and if it's a gift we have no idea who it's from. I skim through it.

People - Because it's a great guilty pleasure, a total escape. And I don't want to be one of those middle aged people who doesn't know who Coldplay is.

What comes to yours?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My motivation to create

Gabrielle asked us on this ring to consider these questions: What is your motivation to create? Why are you working in fiber? What moves to you to create?

Here are the thoughts that come to mind for me:

Color! Color! Color!

The tactile pleasures of fabric - color made tangible

The challenge: I wonder if I can make something that looks like this idea, or thought, or image...

The process of learning a new skill or technique

The quiet pleasure of putting something together, piece by piece

The fun and discovery in seeing how each new addition changes the whole (for example, the fun of seeing how a quilt top looks totally different with quilting on it)

The sense of participating in this centuries' old tradition, and taking a traditional aspect of women's work and evolving with it into something artful

Making something that no one else has made, that is just mine

Creative time

Gabrielle's post today is one of those timely messages, as it hits right on what I've been thinking about lately. I'm in another one of those phases where my non-creative life is really busy, and I simply need to attend to those matters before I can work on my creative projects with a clear conscience. Now, you have to understand that I generally am quite good at blocking out the "have to" things nagging at me, to make sure I do some of the things that are important to me. I consider these things vital, recharging activities. My happiness and sanity depends on them.

But even then, my creative time might mean sitting for 15 minutes to look at a few pages of a new quilt book, or making sketches for 10 minutes on a project that is on my mind. Sometimes, like now, that's all the time I have. I have work deadlines pressing, PTO business to take care of, household necessities to accomplish, not to mention a child and husband who deserve my attention, too.

Here's what I've been thinking lately: It's OKAY. I'll get back to it shortly, and it'll still be there. My life isn't an 8-5-at-the-office life, with evenings and weekends free, or the life of a full-time professional artist. I've traded those options for a flexible work schedule so I can be home with Caroline after school, be involved with her school during the day, keep doing legal work but at my schedule and to my choice, and generally adapt my work schedule to family needs. It's great, truly, that I have the luxury of doing this. And that means that some weeks I work from 9pm to 1am every night, or spend weekends at my desk to finish a project on a short deadline, and I don't get to make progress on a creative project.

So, there are times when I can't work on quilt projects. Rather than getting upset about it (as I have done sometimes -- you've read that here, too), I'm trying to just relax and know that there'll be time. I'll enjoy that fun time more for having earned it, and I'll be able to relax and know I can spend that time because I've gotten some other business stuff out of the way.

This week, I've been mildly stressed because the challenge quilt I've made for our guild's challenge isn't totally complete. It's that sprinkler one I showed you, here. After quilting and binding it, I decided I'd sew some beads on to add water droplets. As this is my first beading effort on a quilt, I totally underestimated how long this would take...and I'm only about halfway done with the beading. Now, this could be vaguely embarrassing as I'm the challenge chair person and I figure that I should have mine totally done. I keep getting these niggling "Oh my gosh, I need to finish, there are only two more days" thoughts. But then I remind myself: I've researched and written 4 long pleadings in the last few days, attended I don't even know how many school board related committee meetings, I've dealt with bathroom repair guys every day, I've managed to get dinner on the table at night, and Caroline is wearing clean clothes to school. I'm not going to worry if the beads aren't done. It's not life or death. It's beads on a quilt, for goodness sake.

So, here's my thought for today: I'm going to let my creative life be what it can be. Sometimes it can be a big part of my day and sometimes it can't. The creativity is there, in me, whether I have time to use it or not on any given day. It's not going to go away.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Saturday night in Berkeley

Remember these guys?

In case you don't, that's Kenny Loggins and Jimmy Messina, of "Loggins and Messina" fame. If you don't recognize them, you'd know their songs. "Danny's Song," "House at Pooh Corner," "Angry Eyes," "Your Mama Don't Dance".... these two are responsible for a long string of hits.

Well, they split up some time in the 70's. I've followed Kenny Loggins since then, and have seen him in concert a whole bunch of times. I just adore his voice, and now it's the sort of musical relationship that each concert carries a full load of pleasant nostalgia. My college roommate and I followed his concerts and saw him in southern California when we could. I saw him in New England when I lived there. In an amazing coincidence, he was performing on the night Roger and I got married at the very site of our wedding (the Mountain Winery, a beautiful winery in Saratoga, California with a great outdoor amphitheatre) so after our wedding, Roger and I treated our entire wedding party to the Kenny Loggins concert.

Anyway... Loggins and Messina have reunited for a tour, and last night they came to Berkeley. Roger and I were there, of course. Here's what they look like now:

Older, wiser, no less talented...But aren't we all. They sounded great... It was really impressive to hear how well their voices still blend, and it was a pleasure to see how at ease they seem together nowadays.

A good time was had by all. Me, I'm going to go download some of those old Loggins and Messina songs onto my Ipod.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Sound of a Summer Evening -- the Details

I've gotten a few requests to tell how I did this, so here goes:

I started with a large piece of batting, about 38" square, and stuck that up on my design wall. I added a large piece of dark green for the dark upper background (general evening foliage) and a lighter piece of green, for the lawn. I pinned those on.

Then, I sort of randomly cut shapes of bushes from a green hand-dye, a color in between the grass green and the dark background, and fused those over the gap where the lawn and background joined.

I cut small random clumps of a red hand-dyed fabric, and fused those on for flowers. Then, I fused the sprinkler and hose, until it all looked like this:

At that stage, I turned to the machine and quilted down the bushes and the lawn. (I did a sort of swirly loopy overall pattern on the bushes with a little loop in the middle of each flower, so they look actually sort of rose-like up close.) I didn't quilt on the upper dark background at that point.
Here's where it got dicey, because I proceeded to do what I knew I shouldn't do in the first place. (Isn't that always the way? I'm my own worst enemy.) I had this sort of irridescent, gently sparkly white nylon organza that I thought would make great water sprays. I applied Wonder Under to that. (I can see Melody shaking her head and wagging her finger at me...)

Then, I cut thin strips of the organza, from about 3/8" to 1/4" wide. Sitting at my table with the quilt spread flat in front of me, I gently cut snips off of an organza strip, letting them fall in a spray pattern. I'd do a bit, put a piece of Wonder Under release paper down on top, and fuse it down. Bit by bit, that's how I created the look of spray.

Now I KNOW that a man-made fiber won't fuse permanently or nearly as well as a natural fiber. I knew I was pushing my luck...But my thought was that if it held just long enough for me to sew it all down, it'd be okay. So I snipped and fused, snipped and fused, snipped and fused...You get the idea.

Well, I got it to where it looked just great. So, I loaded up my machine with white thread and started to stitch spray lines over the fused bits, to hold it down and create more spray pattern.

You know, you'd have been amazed at how efficiently the darning foot on my machine just bumped those little organza bits up and off of that fabric before the needle reached them! If I'd wanted to come up with a way to get them off, I couldn't have dreamed up a better solution. Of course, that was NOT what I was trying to accomplish.

So, plan B. Persisting in thinking that the fusing would work, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary, I snipped and fused a bit to replace the bits that had fallen off (and were drifting off each time I moved the darn thing.)

Then, I remembered that in my vast stash of stuff, I had a bag of tulle in various colors. Luckily, I had a piece of dark green tulle -- just the right size. How often does THAT happen? I laid it over the top part of the quilt (covering the sprinkler on up), and pinned, pinned, pinned.

At that stage, I went back to the sewing machine and sewed white spray lines up and out of the sprinkler. I switched thread to that flat, irridescent mylar thread and did a few of those lines, too.

At that point, it looked good but was a god-awful, distorted parallelogram from the dense quilting on the spray lines with nothing in between. So, I went back with dark green, and quilted between the sprays and anywhere else there wasn't quilting, in the same loopy "foliage" pattern I'd done on the bushes.

Miraculously, it flattened out and the tulle disappeared into the green but held the organza bits down.

I blocked it on the bedroom floor for a day (which means I sprayed it with water and pinned it all down, square and flat). When dry, I trimmed to final size (approx. 35 x 35) and applied binding.

I'll do beads next, when I have a chance.

Sound of a Summer Evening

Our guild's challenge this year is "The Sound of Quilting"...the idea is to make a quilt inspired by a sound or noise.

Here's my effort: "The Sound of a Summer Evening." This is one of the projects where all sorts of unexpected things happened along the way...some good, some bad. It's no masterpiece, but as my goal was to have SOMEthing for the challenge reveal on Sept. 15, I'm satisfied.

This may be the first quilt to which I add beads. I have some small irridescent seed beads that would accentuate the white water "drops" so I'll give those a try.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Labor Day Weekend

Meals prepared: 9
Meals eaten: 6
Indulgent desserts concocted: 1
Company entertained: 2 adults, 2 children
Bottles of wine consumed: 2
Dishes washed: too numerous to count
Childrens' bedrooms cleaned: 1
Drawers cleaned out: 6
Loads of laundry washed: 5
Bags of clothes for Salvation Army filled: 2 large
Items retrieved from bags by child: 3
Puppy visitors entertained: 1
Mud puddles filled in: 3
Dogs bathed: 2
Sprinkler lines replaced to fix chew holes: 3
Quilt tops quilted: 1
Quilts bound: 1
Sewing rooms cleaned: 0
Magazines read: 3
Legal work accomplished: 0
Naps taken: 0

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Philosophical Thought for the Day

Caroline made this observation today as we were driving home from the dog park:

"Mom, have you ever noticed that you can't lick your own ear?"